Thursday, December 6, 2012

Faraway Adventures: Rome-The Vatican

Within  seconds of entering the Vatican Museums my left contact fell out of my eye. So began my day of seeing beautiful art with one squinty eye.  But since I lost it (the contact, not my composure, well, not a lot of my composure)  in the Vatican, my little eye piece automatically goes to heaven, right? Right.  Let’s stick with the belief that no matter what the rest of me does with my life, that little piece of me has already found salvation.  That sounds way better than dealing with the fact that I had to wear my chunky hipster glasses around for the rest of the trip. Silly American.

 We spent the better part of an entire day in Vatican City. We paid a little bit extra to go on an English tour given by one  of the museum staff. It was totally worth the euros. Our guide, Patrick, was delightful and very knowledgeable.  Let’s be honest, even counting all the rest of the history and people, the Vatican, or at least the tour, is really all about Michelangelo. And it was through this tour, and all of Patrick’s stories, that I really started to piece together Michelangelo, the person, not just the cultural reference or Ninja turtle.  I could feel a little bit of reserved politeness, though. Even though Michelangelo did some of his greatest work here in Rome, he was still from Florence. Italy has only been a united country since 1861, and I have feeling that the ties of unity are still being forged.   Kinda of like these United States of ours. Whatever, Kansas.
The bust is Augustus Caesar, the shadow is totally Abraham Lincoln. 

But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning. The Vatican is located on, and takes its name from its location, Vatican Hill.  “Vatican” is mostly likely a reference to good old Vaticanus, the Etruscan god of prophecy, who had a temple on that same hill way back when. But you never really know for sure when you are dealing with place names and languages from thousands of years ago. Maybe back then, it was just a nice sunny place to eat your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Or since this is Europe, your Nutella and jelly sandwiches.  I will save the rest of my Estruscan love for my stories about the ruins along the Forum.  
The Vatican City, as a separate city state nation, was founded in 1929, and is slightly different from the entity known as the Holy See, which usually refers to the seat of government of the Roman Catholic Church. I think. Even though my family is historically Catholic, I am not,  and I have very little working knowledge of the history or workings of the Church. This is sad and I really should be better about that.  This faith is part of my blood, so I tried extra hard to not only be respectful but also take in and try to understand the meanings behind all the rituals,  symbolism and art. And oh my, that art.  THE ART. I like to be all snobby and be into modern art and “the renaissance was so 15th century” and whatnot, but I was shocked and awed into silence and stillness by the beauty on those Vatican walls, Michelangelo and Raphael, and the rest of those artists had a touch of talent that is rare and magnificent.  We actually got separated from our tour group in the Sistine Chapel (always remember exit to the right, not the left), not because it was crowded and stuffy and the guards kept yelling NO PHOTO!  , it was because that famed ceiling is a whole new world.  I could of stayed there for hours. There are a lot of things that I go see or go do just to say that I did them and be able to contribute to cultural small talk, but I do declare that the art in Italy, like in the Vatican, changed me. Just wait until I get to talking about Florence, I beat this idea into the ground, I mean expand on it.
School of Athens by Raphael

I didn’t take too many pictures inside the Vatican, a little bit out of respect of this place holy to so many, a little bit because of restrictions, and let bit out of being so beautifully distracted by my surroundings, but Clive eventually wanted to see the sites too. 

St. Peter’s Basilica, or more precisely, Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, was built on what is believed to the burial site of Peter, disciple of Jesus.  The basilica is actually the second St. Peter's to be built on that site. The first church was built by the Emperor Constantine in 319 AD.  The old St. Peter's fell into disrepair and it was decided by the Papacy to rebuild in the 15th century. 120 years later, with the support of a long list of popes and the talents of a long list of artists including Donato Bramante, Raphael and Michelangelo, construction on the basilica was completed (1626). 

 Michelangelo's Pieta, a grieving Mary holding the body of Christ after the crucification.

 My sister and mom went into the gift shop (she got me holy water--vampires beware!) and I waited outside had some pretty awesome people watching moments in St. Peter's Square.

And my favorite of the day:

1 comment :

  1. You should read "The Agony and the Ecstasy" if you haven't already. Brilliant fictionalized biography of Michelangelo with a great deal of it focusing on his time spent working on the Sistine Chapel. It's always fun to read something and be able to perfectly visualize it because you've seen it in real life!